Relationship Difficulties - Multi-blogs available here
Why do all my partners turn out to be the same?
I see a lot of people that come forward for Therapy because they 'keep on meeting the wrong partner'. This is pretty much even in terms of male and female clients. People can invest a lot of time, effort, emotion, trust and parts of their future in somebody that 'turns out' to be the same as the last two partners. I think there may be a clue in that - you are the common denominator in these relationships and if you don't want this to continue to happen - perhaps exploring yourself would be helpful?
Most people tend to think that 'things just happen' to us e.g. you think you have met a great person, you start dating, take it forward, make a commitmment together and sometime later, it emerges that you think this person is the same as your previous two partners. Why is this? Well things don't 'just happen' and people don't just randomly feel attracted to each other, there is a lot more that is going on than we realise. We all operate from a conscious awareness and an unconscious awareness. A conscious awareness is what we can see, hear and feel about other people. We are conscious of these matters , i.e. we can identify, acknowledge and think about these things. An unconscious awareness is what we can't see, hear and feel about other people - but this does not mean that nothing is happening in our unconscious mind - it is.
None of us come to a relationship totally free of the prevous influences on us and experiences we have had. This can extend from childhood to adulthood. An example I often use with people is; Let's say you and your sister and brother grew up in a family where both parents were alcoholics. You all hate alcohol, you hate what it done to your parents and family and you vow never to touch alcohol yourself. When you are an adult, one day you look around and realise that you have stuck to your principles and have not drunk alcohol, BUT you seem to keep getting involved with men that drink too much and all the negative consequences that brings. Your brother has become an alcoholic himself and your sister does not have any alcohol in her life, including in relationships. Why is this happening? There are biological and social influences affecting our behaviours, but what we also do as humans, is gravitate to what unconsciously feels 'normal' to us. We may hate something with every bone in our body, e.g. alcohol, but we know how to deal or 'survive' in situations where alcohol is playing a big part in the relationship. A similar example is, growing up with a violent father that physically abuses your mother. You hate violence and how it impacted on your family, BUT you now realise you keep choosing partners that are violent. Attraction is not one way as we know. So a man that also grew up in a family where his Father was violent, to his shy and passive wife, can also continue to affect their children. The man may have longed for his Mother to have found her voice and courage to stand up to his father - leave with the children so they don't have to witness and feel the terrible emotional turmoil this violence creates and he may be angry and resentful that his mother did nothing to protect herself or her children. So one starry night two people meet. The man with his resentment and anger and the woman with her loathing and neediness for attention and love. What attracts them to each other is;
a) their conscious awareness e.g. they like the look, the sound and the emotional states of the person, all of that in the honeymoon phase is wonderful, positive and bonding.
b) their unconscious awareness e.g. there is a 'shadow side' - not illuminated by conscious awareness. That shadow side in this example is about how attracted the woman is to the mans decisiveness - always deciding what they will do as a couple and making important decisions for them. The female feels shy and unassertive and is glad he can take charge, - somebody has to. The man feels strong and good at fixing things and likes how demure and none aggressive his lady is. However, as time goes by, the man becomes an abusive dictator and the woman a victim that avoids taking responsibility for her part in the relationship and they grow apart. They may have accused each other e.g. 'you are just like your mother, or you are just like your father'. So people seek out what they are familiar with and that includes parental models of behaviour. They also seek out a way to resolve the emotional crisis they have been through when growing up - but without them gaining insight to their own behaviour e.g. through counselling or therapy - they keep trying to find a different ending to the dynamic i.e. a happier ending - where they don't behave like their father or mother and they don't have a partner that behaves like their father or mother. When they are unable to change behaviour in that relationship - they split up and put themselves out in the world again. They reluctantly start dating again and eventually meet somebody else and the pattern continues over and over again.
Remember the common denominator is you. You can learn to understand yourself better and get help to move on much more positively into new relationships without having the same negative influences destroying each one. If you recognise your own patterns of repeating relationships -I would be pleased to help you understanding yourself better and to break the repeating pattern.
Love In the Digital Age, what behaviours are cheating?
I work with many couples that are struggling and in emotional pain because one partner has betrayed the trust of the other. This can be by having short and long term affairs or perhaps a one night stand or accessing online chat services and porn websites. It is heart breaking for the non-cheating partner and often shame fuelled denial and later regret for the cheater.
One of the most common bones of contention is that some men, (or women, I will use for convenience ‘male’ as cheater and female as partner of, it can be either sex who cheats) will insist viewing porn or going on live sex chat lines is not being unfaithful as they have never had sex in ‘real life’ with anybody else. This can be a sticking point for huge arguments or silent withdrawals ultimately getting the couple no resolution of the problem. Often a man will be dragged along to an appointment for ‘me’ to sort him out!
My job is not to take sides with either of the partners and I quickly communicate this. Both must feel in a safe place in order to open up enough to look at tough feelings and have a difficult conversation. I can’t be seen as just another woman who is siding with his wife and I also can’t be seen as someone that is blaming the wife for his decision to cheat. It’s a fine juggle to walk the line. An easier way to think of it is that I am working with their relationship as my client, whilst holding each partner’s individuality in mind.
Research has shown that women can’t compartmentalise love and sex in the way that some men can and therefore ‘it didn’t mean anything’ as protested by a cheater, can’t be understood or believed by most woman. Research has also shown that cheating emotionally and physically, including with people online, causes the same emotional pain as in ’real life,’ no matter how much the man protests. When the betrayal on a continuum of occurrence sits at the addiction end of the behaviour, the partner (and many others in the general population) will believe addiction is being used as an excuse for bad behaviour and that the man just has e.g. a high sex drive. Addiction causes pain and chaos in life and there is nothing wrong with a high sex life as long as nobody is getting hurt, (different from as long as nobody finds out). Often the man will also be in denial about his own behaviour and this so often will lead to fiercely defended lies about that behaviour. Again, through research it has been shown that it is the continual lies told by her husband and the putting of blame onto the wife e.g. ‘you are exaggerating’, ‘I told you I was going out tonight you are always forgetting things’, ‘why are you so suspicious I told you nothing was happening’ etc that does more damage than the actual behaviour that the man carries out. Every time the woman asks – is that all, is there anything else I should know, and the man promises that there is no more to be told and then more is discovered by the wife – the bigger the emotional trauma in the wife. This promising that nothing is wrong or that all information is known and then blaming the wife when she has suspicions, only for more information about behaviour to be found out, is called gas lighting. Gas lighting can cause women to be so traumatised that they suffer effects like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Women in this category usually say that it was easier to forgive the behaviour than the lies and the attempts at making the woman believe she is at fault, followed by further discovery of lies. You may well imagine that there could be no way forward for a couple in this situation. The man may attempt to use his wife’s ‘behaviour’ to justify why he ‘acted out’, e.g. ‘you are too wrapped up with the children, you never have time for me’ or you never want to have sex – it’s 6 months since we had sex’. These situations/behaviours can be included in the list of things that need to be understood and resolved, but it was ultimately the mans’ ‘choice’ to respond to a problem by cheating. He could have chosen not to cheat but to try to understand and solve the problem – but he did not. Conversely a person does not (consciously) 'choose' to have an addiction, it emerges with time. Often at the very heart of problems is poor communication and/or different expectations of e.g. a trusting relationship or how sex will be when married or in a long term relationship, or with children now in the family and what either believes to be behaviour that is cheating.
It is my job to help the couple to have an honest conversation about what has happened. Feelings are usually very raw and often one or both partners can be experiencing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. I must take everything into consideration and help both to move away from ‘blame’ and towards understanding (which doesn’t mean forgiving or forgetting). Maintaining and repairing a broken relationship takes commitment and hard work, but if partners still love each other and want the relationship to continue, then it is possible for that to happen. Often people will say, ‘I just want all this crying and anger and emotion to stop – I just want us to go back to normal’. Well…..’normal’ didn’t prevent cheating, nor did it promote understanding of each other. The truth is that the relationship will never be the same again….but it can be better. Communication and understanding can be much improved and when the man takes positive action to show he can be trusted (a long term activity) and the woman can finally believe this – there is hope for the future.
If you are having trouble with any of the issues that I talk about here and you want some help to navigate the minefield, please email me and we can begin the process of unravelling and finding a way forward for you.
Best wishes to you all.